The 1988 Cincinnati Bengals experienced an afternoon of nightmares when they went to Kansas City in Week 11.
Facing Christian Okoye — aka the Nigerian Nightmare — and a Chiefs team that had won just once in its first 10 games, the Bengals made a bunch of small mistakes and one giant one that added up to a 31-28 loss.
Okoye ran for 102 yards and a game-tying touchdown with 1:11 remaining, and the Bengals Marc Logan fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up Nick Lowery’s game-winning 39-yard field goal with two seconds to go.
It was the fifth field goal of the game for Lowery, and it sent the Bengals (8-3) to their third loss in five games after a 6-0 start.
“I just think this (expletive) team can’t stand any prosperity at any given time,” irate Cincinnati quarterback Boomer Esiason said in a profanity-laced tirade. “There’s no way we should have let that team beat us.”
In addition to the fumbled kick return, the Bengals also had a punt blocked for a safety and the Kansas City defense forced two Cincinnati turnovers.
The game also featured an incredible 23-play, 87-yard drive by the Chiefs offense that consumed 13 minutes and 3 seconds and ended with a Lowery 23-yard field goal.
Kansas City would end up running 75 plays to the Bengals’ 51 and dominated in time of possession 38:16 to 21:44.
“It seems to me they pretty much did whatever they wanted to do,” Cincinnati linebacker Carl Zander said. “Everything they ran just about worked. We couldn’t make a play. We couldn’t get them stopped.”
The Bengals offense answered the long KC drive by marching 79 yards for a 5-yard TD run by Stanley Wilson with 14 seconds left before the break. And then Esiason scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter for a 21-9 lead.
But the defensive struggles continued for Cincinnati as the Chiefs went on another long drive to chop into the lead with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Steve DeBerg to Stephone Paige.
Then just as quickly the Bengals pushed the advantage back to 12 on Stanford Jenning’s 98-yard kickoff return, which would foreshadow his 93-yard return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII.
That, however, would be the end of the scoring against the Chiefs as the hosts put up the final 15 points for the stunning upset.
“We feel sick,” Cincinnati head coach Sam Wyche said. “Our defense played poorly, our special teams played poorly except for one play. Our offense played better than the other two (units), but not well enough to be called a championship team.”
Still, the Bengals thought they had the game won when KC quarterback Steve DeBerg threw an incompletion on third and 10 fron the Cincinnati 15, but a late flag — one that wasn’t thrown but waved by an official as he ran to the spot — signaling pass interference against David Fulcher gave the Chiefs the ball at the 1-yard line. And one play later Okoye scored to tie the game.
“It’s got to be the sorriest call I’ve ever seen,” Fulcher said. “I didn’t know what he was doing when he came over waving the flag.”
The Bengals still had 71 seconds to get within field goal range for Jim Breech, but Logan’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff proved to be the final nightmare during a day full of them.
Nov. 13, 1988
At Arrowhead Stadium
Kansas City 31, Cincinnati 28
Cincinnati 7 7 14 0 — 28
Kansas Ctiy 6 3 10 12 — 31
KC: Nick Lowery 37 field goal, 5:00
C: Ickey Woodsd 4 run (Jim Breech kick), 8:35
KC: Lowery 35 field goal, 13:41
KC: Lowery 23 field goal, 13:03
C: Stanley Wilson 5 run (Breech kick), 14:46
C: Boomer Esiason 5 run (Breech kick), 7:46
KC: Stephone Paige 17 pass from Steve DeBerg (Lowery kick), 9:41
C: Stanford Jennings 98 kickoff return (Breech kick), 9:59
K: Lowery 47 field goal, 13:44
K: Safety, Lewis blocked punt through end zone, 8:54
K: Christian Okoye 1 run (Lowery kick), 13:49
K: Lowery 39 field goal, 14:58
Cincinnati – Boomer Esiason 11-22-1-157; Kansas City 22-37-0-285
Cincinnati – Ickey Woods 13-76, James Brooks 10-48, Boomer Esiason 3-25, Stanley Wilson 2-6, Eddie Brown 1-minus-5; Kansas City – Christian Okoye 16-102, Herman Heard 10-22, Paul Palmer 8-16, Steve DeBerg 3-2
Cincinnati – Tim McGee 3-60, Eddie Brown 3-28, Rodney Holman 1-24, Jim Riggs 2-19, James Brooks 1-15, Cris Collinsworth 1-11; Kansas City – C. Carson 7-86, Stephone Paige 4-71, Paul Palmer 4-62, Herman Heard 3-22, Alfredo Roberts 1-14, Emile Harry 1-11, Kitrick Taylor 1-10, James Saxon 1-9